Swing the leg over the bike, and I head out into the woods. As I start to turn the pedals, my legs begin to burn. Each labored breath rips deep in my lungs and reminds me of my mortal weakness. This goes on for a bit, but eventually my legs seem to disappear from my mind, working solely on their own without question. My lungs begin to feel quenched of air and take a relaxed simple rhythm. The relaxation of my breath stretches out to the end of my fingers. I feel as if I were a hawk floating through the woods in search of something not known to me yet. Momentum begins to replace the feeling of gravity and the texture of all that is below my tires becomes the wind to ride upon, …gliding over rocks and roots with just a slight change of position or a dip of the wing to guide the path of my trajectory. Once in the single track, I rarely ride a straight line, but ride from one arc to another, as if I were an ice skater always on edge. The system to my flight becomes intuitive. I am lost in flight.
Being injured as an athlete is always a difficult thing to go through. We take time off the bike, and can easily slip into feelings of anxiety, doubt, self-pity or denial, to name a few. It can get to us all in some way. Last year it was Lyme disease for me, and now I am nearly six weeks into a torn rotator cuff. Neither of these injuries has been life threatening, or even kept me completely off the bike, but they can certainly slow me down in life for a bit. When you look at the big picture, these are minor set backs, but still require some patience, trust and focus to heal. Truthfully, riding a bike is a gift, and the ability to do so may just be on loan to us. We just don’t always realize this, until it is temporarily taken away.
Although I did not see it at the time, when I look back to last year when I had Lyme, I see a path of rest that led me to my first cycle-cross race, and guided me into an energized season of winter road riding. There is a small part of me that feels some disappointment in having to slow down after such a strong winter, but it is now my path, and I will embrace it, and see where it takes me. So, although the exact destination of this path is unknown, I do plan to fly again.